If you’ve ever popped into my bookshop, you may have noticed the “spooky” section. It encompasses horror, mystery, and sci-fi, and is one of our larger categories — more than twice the size of our history offerings. I’ll admit to blushing at that acknowledgment, but, really, I just love a good shiver- inducing story. And that’s one of the fun parts of having my own shop: getting to decide which books go on the shelves. Thankfully, lots of y’all seem to love a good spooky tale, too.
Don’t laugh, but I can pretty much trace my affinity for getting creeped out by a story back to Scooby-Doo. I would often build a couch-pillow fort in front of the TV and nestle inside to watch an episode, my pulse racing a bit as I accompanied the gang on their investigation of a (not really) haunted castle, swamp, ski lodge, factory, or other fill-in-the-blank location. To not lose my buzz during the commercials (this was way before DVRs and fast-forwarding capabilities), I’d flip through my well-worn copy of The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree. I loved that show — my 2-year-old hound mix is even named Scooby.
Other early memories include ogling my older sister’s Nancy Drew books, with their dark, moody covers featuring sweater-set-clad teens and flashlights and staircases and cobwebs and gnarled forests. I devoured Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe and The Witches by Roald Dahl.
When I was a freshman in high school, a spell of Saturday-afternoon browsing at Davis-Kidd (RIP) led me to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. The cover featured blurbs calling it “spine-chilling” and “terrifying” — a “masterpiece.” How could I resist? The next day, I flopped on my bed and cracked it open. It was a bright and sunny afternoon. As I turned the pages, I kept thinking to myself, “Why all the hubbub? This isn’t that scary.” At one point, the phone next to my bed rang, and I jumped a good foot (like, vertically), the book flying out of my hands. I guess I was spooked, after all. The brilliance of Hill House is its subtlety, its old-fashioned, less-is-more approach to building suspense. It has a permanent spot in the shop’s spooky section.
Some more recent, made-me-sleep-with-thelights- on favorites have been NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s lookalike and write-alike son), The Winter People (featuring a terror-inducing scene involving a closet) by Jennifer McMahon, Baby Teeth (sinister-kid alert) by Zoje Stage, and The Troop (gruesome and fun) by Nick Cutter. I’ve just started Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, an English-manorset ghost story that’s been likened to . . . The Haunting of Hill House.
What say you, my fiends . . . er, friends? Do you enjoy a creepy tale this time of year? What’s the last book that made you shake and shiver? Swing by the shop to chat about this or any other bookish thing on your mind these days.